The Student News Site of Clemson University

The Tiger

The Tiger

The Tiger

Clemson ice hockey upsets No. 1 Florida Atlantic, advances to first-ever CHS Championship

Leah Marie Pereira
Santiago Diaz (88) skates the puck out of the defensive zone during Clemson’s game against Middle Tennessee on Feb. 10.

Following a four-goal comeback upset over the No. 3 Florida Gators last Friday, the No. 6 Clemson club ice hockey team did the impossible once again, defeating the No. 1 Florida Atlantic Owls by a score of 6-4 to advance to the College Hockey South championship game for the first time in the club’s history.

While the Tigers fell in the championship game, the appearance came after a hard-earned comeback against the Owls.

Clemson captain Thomas Samuelsen struck first — with enough precision to knock the Florida Atlantic goaltender’s water bottle off the top of the net — for the Tigers, assisted by Cade Heinold and Brian Blomquist at 7:08 of the opening period. However, Florida Atlantic equalized and took a 2-1 lead before the period’s conclusion.

Less than six minutes into the middle frame, the Owls extended their lead to 3-1, and Clemson found itself in a near-identical situation as the night prior. But this time, the Tigers were more confident in their ability to claw themselves out of a deficit.

Over the next half hour, Clemson completed its second consecutive multi-goal comeback, spearheaded by a four-goal third period, to take down the No. 1 seed and advance to its first-ever CHS championship game.

With 7:45 left in the second, Heinold brought the Tigers within one while on the power play with help from Samuelsen and Herb Kopf, courtesy of a high-slot wrister from the top of the circle. Down by just one goal with 20 minutes to tie, Clemson headed to the locker room for the second intermission with the chance of a lifetime now within sight.

Just 20 seconds into the final period, Kopf did what he does best: scored to tie the game at 3-3, tipping in a quick cross-ice pass from Heinold. A few minutes later, Florida Atlantic’s netminder blocked a shot from Santiago Diaz, only for Kopf to net the rebound to give Clemson a 4-3 lead.

The Owls evened the score at 4-4 less than a minute after Kopf’s equalizer, but the deadlock did not last long. Will Van Sicklin potted his fifth goal of the season with 2:38 remaining to restore the Tigers’ lead.

The prospect of another tying goal lying within striking distance led the Owls to pull their goaltender to add a sixth attacker. However, the move backfired for Florida Atlantic when Heinold sealed Clemson’s fate with an empty netter with half a second on the clock.

The Tigers jumped the bench and made their way to Parker Dietz to celebrate on the ice, leaving Florida Atlantic — and all the game’s spectators — stunned.

“Obviously, going into the late part of the season, every game’s a big one,” Kopf said. “It was great to get that done so we all know that we can play with good teams and get wins.”

Alex Wallace shared Kopf’s sentiment, saying, “These wins were big for us, but tomorrow is a new day and a new game. We need to come with a lot of intensity and play our game.”

The following day, Clemson lost a hard-fought battle, 4-1, against the Tennessee Volunteers for the Ameritrans Cup. With the loss, the Tigers placed second overall in the tournament, an impressive achievement for their first-ever CHS championship appearance.

The team is not disheartened by the loss — in fact, the players are incredibly proud of each other and their performance as a team. They look forward to proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with over the next couple of weeks, starting with their third and final contest against the South Carolina Gamecocks of this academic year next weekend.

The final leg of the Palmetto Cup will take place at Bon Secours Wellness Arena at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24. The Clemson team encourages everyone to attend and support them as it faces its rivals in the last regular season game.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Tiger

Your donation will support the student journalists of Clemson University . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kelly Kaelblein
Kelly Kaelblein, Asst. Sports Editor
Donate to The Tiger

Comments (0)

All The Tiger Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *